As YouTube scrambles to tackle a network of child exploitation in the comments section of its platform, some creators have voiced concern about what will happen if their videos are demonetised amid advertiser pull-outs and crackdowns on content.
The Verge reported this week that a tweet from the Team YouTube account sent creators further spiralling after the company announced a measure it was taking against “inappropriate comments”.
“Over the past few days, we’ve taken a number of actions to better protect the YouTube community from content that endangers minors,” the account tweeted. “With regard to the actions that we’ve taken, even if your video is suitable for advertisers, inappropriate comments could result in your video receiving limited or no ads.”
Advertisers began pulling their ad spending from the site after YouTuber Matt Watson shared a video earlier this week that highlighted the methods used by apparent paedophiles in video comments to exploit children, including sharing contact information, captioning videos in an inappropriate manner, and timestamping specific parts of the videos.
Faced with losing major ad clients such as Nestlé, Epic Games and Hasbro, YouTube has taken extreme measures to ensure that ads don’t appear on content that could be a magnet for bad actors.
A spokesperson for YouTube said that it has limited ads on videos that may put young subjects at risk of this kind of predatory activity via comments. YouTube is also shutting the comments off of millions of videos of minors to curb the problem for the time being.
Regarding the @TeamYouTube tweet that has the community freaking out right now.— Philip DeFranco (@PhillyD) February 22, 2019
I reached out to YT. Don’t have an official statement yet, but 1. It sounds like this isn’t policy for every video on YT and 2. It’s likely comment disabling will be preferred over demonetization. pic.twitter.com/q7dpuztDxq
For creators whose videos include their children, for example, limited ads or demonetised videos could be a problem.
Some creators tweeted they felt they were being punished for comments beyond their control. Others worry that YouTube’s temporary system could be abused by ill-intentioned commenters looking to screw creators over.
“While the creators of these videos may have done nothing wrong, we’re going above and beyond our existing protections in the near term on content that may include or endanger minors,” Team YouTube wrote in a blog about the changes. “Our goal is to protect creators and the broader ecosystem while we improve our systems.”
In addition to the aforementioned changes, a YouTube spokesperson said earlier this week that the company removed hundreds of accounts linked to individuals leaving what the company perceived to be predatory comments on videos of minors. YouTube is also reporting any illegal comments to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children to work with law enforcement.
“Any content — including comments — that endangers minors is abhorrent and we have clear policies prohibiting this on YouTube,” a YouTube spokesperson said in a statement.
“We took immediate action by deleting accounts and channels, reporting illegal activity to authorities and disabling comments on tens of millions of videos that include minors. There’s more to be done, and we continue to work to improve and catch abuse more quickly.”